Rollright Stones & Whispering Knights

This is a ring of Neolithic stones near Long Compton on the border of Oxfordshire. This is from Highways and Byways of Oxford and the Cotswolds:

“Up here on the wold we have entered a fabled land. Close to us on our left is the spell-bound circle of he Rowldrich, to our right the King-stone, which would bow its head when the ‘eldern tree’ was cut on Midsummer eve, and down below the circle are the Five Knights still whispering treachery against their lord. these stones, the silent chronicle of a long-forgotten time, how much could they tell of the true story that lies hidden beneath the legends, for so many centuries the heritage of these hills! …the name Rollright, which appears in Doomsday as Rollandri, is nothing more than a corruption of Rollandriht, ie, the right or jurisdiction of Roland. Now Roland the brave, the Paladin of Charlemagne, was, … the legendary champion of Christianity against the Paynim, and since he does not appear in this capacity earlier than the middle of the 9th century, it cannot be till some time after this date that his name came to be connected with these monuments. The same thing took place on the continent: in northern Germany the name Rolandsaeule was attached to the ancient stone pillars which stood in the market places of various towns …

The fairies would dance around the King-stone on moonlight nights. Dr Evans talked with an old woman whose husband had actually seen them. She herself remembered a hole in the bank by the stone from which they used to come out for their dance, and many a time when a girl she and her companions had placed a flat stone over the old of an evening to keep the fairies in, but they always found it turned over next morning. As for the Whispering Knights, they were traitors, who remained behind the rest of the army and were plotting treason when they were turned into stone by the Witch. They had become a kind of oracle for the young girls of the neighbourhood: the same old woman related that ‘years ago, at the time of barley harvest, when they were often out till dusk in the fields near the Whispering Knights, one of the girls would day to another, ‘Let’s go and hear them whisper.’ Then they would go to the stones, and one at a time would put her ear to one of the crevices. But first one would laugh and then another, and she herself never heard any whispering.’ Another aged dame told Dr Evans ‘that the stones were thought to tell of the future. ‘When I was a girl, we used to go up at certain seasons to the Whispering Knights, and climb up on to one of the stones to hear them whisper. Time and again I have heard them whisper – but perhaps after all it was only the wind.”

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